Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates by Neil Rennie - review by Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood

More than Hooks and Parrots

Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates


Oxford University Press 376pp £25

Halfway through The Maltese Falcon, the villainous Kasper Gutman introduces Sam Spade to the convoluted history of the titular jewelled bird, explaining how it was captured from the Knights of Malta in the 16th century by corsairs and taken to Algiers, only to be stolen a hundred years later by Sir Francis Verney, ‘the English adventurer who was with the Algerian buccaneers for a while’. The pirate took his prize to Sicily, the Fat Man tells Spade, and there it disappeared. ‘It’s pretty certain that Sir Francis didn’t have the bird when he died in a Messina hospital in 1615.’ 

Sir Francis Verney was a real pirate. He did indeed die in the Great Hospital at Messina in 1615, though of course he never possessed the fictitious Maltese falcon. Dashiell Hammett’s deft use of history to authenticate make believe offers a perfect example of the twilight zone between reality and

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